The Naked Jungle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Naked Jungle
1960 reissue film poster
Directed byByron Haskin
Screenplay byRanald MacDougall
Ben Maddow
Philip Yordan
Based onLeiningen Versus the Ants
by Carl Stephenson
Produced byGeorge Pal
StarringEleanor Parker
Charlton Heston
Abraham Sofaer
William Conrad
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Edited byEverett Douglas
Music byDaniele Amfitheatrof
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 3, 1954 (1954-03-03)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.3 million (US/Canada rentals)[1]

The Naked Jungle is a 1954 American adventure film directed by Byron Haskin, and starring Charlton Heston and Eleanor Parker. Telling the story of an attack of army ants on a Brazilian cocoa plantation, it was based on the 1937 short story "Leiningen Versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson.[2]


In 1901, Joanna arrives from New Orleans at a South American cocoa plantation to meet her new husband (whom she married by proxy), plantation owner Christopher Leiningen. This has been arranged by his brother in New Orleans. Leiningen is upset that she is a widow, as he wished to marry a virgin. She tells him a piano plays better if it has already been played.

Leiningen is cold and remote to her, rebuffing all her attempts to make friends with him. She is beautiful, independent, and arrives ready to be his stalwart helpmate. There is a strong sexual tension, which appears hard to resolve. Although there is mutual softening, he still decides to send her back to the US. Leiningen decides to advance this plan by a month when he hears from the local commissioner of a potential attack by an army of ants (marabunta), as he does not wish her to be harmed.

As she awaits the boat to take her back to the United States, they learn that legions of army ants - the "marabunta" - will strike in a few days' time. Leiningen refuses to give up the home he fought so hard to create. Instead of evacuating, he resolves to make a stand against this indomitable natural predator. The ants take several days to arrive and during that time their joint effort brings them closer and love begins to blossom. Joanna joins the fight to save the plantation.

Leiningen's most drastic action is blowing up a timber dam to flood his own estate, washing the ants away.



In November 1952, George Pal announced he would adapt the short story "Leiningen Versus the Ants" into a feature film, with Philip Yordan to write the screenplay.[3][4]

In March 1953, Charlton Heston was announced as the male lead.[5] In May 1953, Teddi Sherman was reportedly working on the script.[6] The screenplay was co-written by Ranald MacDougall and the blacklisted writer Ben Maddow.

William Conrad, who had starred as Leiningen in adaptations of Stephenson's story for the radio programs Escape and Suspense, appears in the film as the district commissioner[7] (this was announced in July 1953[8]).

The unique "sound" of the ants devouring everything in their path was created by swirling a straw in a glass of water with crushed ice, which was then amplified. Much of the Rio Negro (Amazon) jungle riverscape, as well as the bridge dynamiting and sluice scenes, are second-unit stock footage shot in Florahome, Florida.[9]


The film was adapted for radio on the June 7, 1954 broadcast of the Lux Radio Theatre; Charlton Heston reprised his role as "Leiningen" and Donna Reed played "Joanna".[10]

A scene from the film was used in the 1971 film The Hellstrom Chronicle.

The film strongly influenced the 1985 MacGyver episode "Trumbo's World", which also featured clips from the film.

In 1978, Martin Scorsese listed the film as among his "100 Random Pleasures" in a section of films which "are not good. They're guilty. But there are things in them that make you like them, that make them worthwhile."[11]


In 1970, it aired on WVUE-TV in New Orleans, Louisiana, as part of its highly publicized switch of channel positions with that city's PBS member station, WYES-TV.[12]


  1. ^ "1954 Boxoffice Champs". Variety. January 5, 1955. p. 59. Retrieved June 28, 2019 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ Crowther, Bosley (April 3, 1954). "The Screen: Three Films Arrive". The New York Times. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  3. ^ Hopper, Hedda (November 17, 1952). "Looking at Hollywood: George Pal for Make Weird, Jungle Story Picture". Chicago Tribune. p. B3.
  4. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (November 17, 1952). "Columbia Raises '53 Output Total". The New York Times. p. 21.
  5. ^ Hopper, Hedda (March 20, 1953). "Heston Will Battle Ant Horde in Film". Los Angeles Times. p. A6.
  6. ^ "Movieland Brief". Los Angeles Times. May 13, 1953. p. 19.
  7. ^ "Escape-Leiningen Versus the Ants". 22 April 2017. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  8. ^ Traven Story Shaping for Sheridan; 'Spring Song' New Film Buy Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 6 July 1953: B9.
  9. ^ "Flower power reigns in tiny town along S.R. 100 - Orlando Sentinel".
  10. ^ "The Naked Jungle". Lux Radio Theater. June 7, 1954 – via Internet Archive.
  11. ^ Scorsese, Martin (September–October 1978). "Martin Scorsese's Guilty Pleasures". Film Comment. Vol. 14, no. 5. pp. 63–66.
  12. ^ "WVUE Channel 8 News Collection". Earl K. Long Library. University of New Orleans. June 2005. Archived from the original on March 2, 2016. Retrieved February 22, 2016.

External links[edit]

Streaming audio